Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx was the first Cistercian Abbey in the north of England, begun in the 1130s under the patronage of Walter Espec, a lord who came to England with William the Conqueror. He was one of the justiciar’s of northern England under William and his descendants, and one of the most powerful men in England as a result. The Abbey is located in Yorkshire, in a wooded dale by the River Rye, which the monks actually diverted to the west in order to have enough flat land to build on. They also used the river to provide fresh water to their monastery. By mining lead and iron and raising sheep to sell their wool, the abbey eventually built itself up to be one of the most powerful in England, with a hundred and forty monks (Norman, of course) and over five Read more…

Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne is an island off the northeastern coast of Britain, and accessibly only when the tidal flats are exposed. The island started out, as all of England once did, as a British settlement. But by the 6th century, the Angles had taken it over, and the Historia Brittonum recounts the last attempt of the British, led by Urien of Rheged, to retake the island. The British were defeated, and the Saxons maintained control of the island ever since. As we talked about in the introduction to Saxon religion, the initial conversion to Christianity of the Saxons of northern England and Scotland was led by Christian missionaries from Ireland, having been converted earlier by the British Saint Patrick. The monastery at Lindisfarne was actually founded by the Irish saint, Aiden, and became the seat of Christian evangelism stretching all the way Read more…

The Templar Order

The Templars were formed in 1118, when nine knights took holy vows to defend Jerusalem. In 1128, their founder received a blessing from the pope to formally form a new order of warrior knights. They adopted the order of St. Benedict and the white robes of the Cistercians and began recruiting. Men flocked to join, and were accepted in a hierarchical system of knights, sergeants (who wore black robes), farmers, and chaplains. Within fifty years, the order became one of the largest landowners not only in the Holy Land but in France and England. They became money lenders in the major cities, and were one of the finest fighting forces in the world. On the way to accumulating land, wealth, and the power that came with it, they established monasteries throughout Europe, called commanderies. We visited five such commanderies on Read more…

Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis Abbey was a monastery of the Cistercian Order, established in a valley north of Dinas Bran in 1200 AD.  Traditionally, the Cistercian monks were supportive of the Welsh Princes.  By the Reformation, the Abbey fell into disuse and disrepair.   “Valle Crucis (Valley of the Cross) takes its name from from Eliseg’s Pillar nearby, which would already have stood for nearly four centuries when the abbey was established in 1201. The new foundation was a Cistercian house, a ‘daughter’ of Strata Marcella, near Welshpool; its patron was Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor, ruler of northern Powys. So that the abbey could enjoy solitude required by the order, the existing settlement of Llangwestl was removed to Stansty, north-west of Wrexham. …The abbey suffered a serious fire soon after its founder’s death in 1236; traces of burning are visible on the Read more…